Other Problems

We live in a complex and often confusing world, where we all have rights and responsibilities. This section aims to give you information on a range of topics. Some, like the Consumer section, affect all of us every day. Others such as Education, Health, Immigration, Tax & National Insurance affect some or all of us sometimes.

Remember all problems can be solved. Here at NESCAB we have a team of fully-trained Advisers on hand to help you.  If we don’t know the answer we ought to be able to refer you to someone who does. Whatever your problem, please don’t hesitate to contact us – the sooner you get advice the earlier you’ll get a solution.

Consumer

Consumer law touches every part of our daily lives whether we are buying goods, using trades people, purchasing insurance or simply getting a bus ticket the law gives us, as private individuals, certain rights.

There are two types of consumer law – one protects our rights when we buy goods or services, and the other protects us from harm from goods we have bought.

Goods

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 says that any goods you buy must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality, this includes the safety of the goods;
  • Fit for purpose, (everyday purpose or agreed with the seller i.e. if for example you specifically ask for a printer that is compatible with your computer);
  • Durable, and
  • As described (must match any sample you been shown or any description in a brochure).

Your contract is with the company that sold you the goods not the manufacturer. If something you have bought fails one of the above criteria then you should complain to the company that you bought the goods from, unless you bought the goods on hire purchase (HP), in which case the HP company is responsible for the quality of goods supplied and your rights are slightly different.

You are entitled to a full refund if you reject the goods within a reasonable time. What is reasonable depends on the goods concerned and how obvious the fault is. If possible you should try to reject faulty goods within 3 to 4 weeks.

If too much time has passed for you to be able to reject the goods you may be entitled to have the goods replaced or repaired.

If you are having problems with goods you have bought, check out the following :

You can also get advice by:

  • Telephoning the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06
    (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Buying over the internet (Consumer Contract Regulations June 2014)

When you buy goods over the internet your rights depend on the law in the country where the company is based.

If you buy goods over the internet from a UK based company, you have the same rights as if you had bought them from a shop.

In addition:

  • You must be given clear and upfront  information, including the seller’s name, the price of the goods and any additional charges such as VAT or delivery charges and information about your cancellation rights;
  • The seller must also give you their full postal address in writing, e.g. in an e-mail or displayed on their website, if you are paying any money in advance;
  • You may have the right to cancel your order at any time up to 14 working days after you have received the goods but may have to pay for the return of the goods. You have to return the unwanted goods in good condition within 14 days of the cancellatation. The right to cancel does NOT apply to perishable goods, newspapers, or software or to audio or video recordings which have been opened;
  • The goods must be delivered within 30 days unless you agree otherwise with the seller; if they have not arrived you have the right to either cancel and get your money back or ask for a replacement;
  • If the goods are damaged or faulty when they arrive  or are substantially different from the description on the website you have the right to a full refund including any postal and packing costs.

These rights do not apply, for example, when buying:

  • Financial services such as insurance or banking (although you may have other rights when buying financial services;
  • Timeshare agreements;
  • Services such as accommodation, catering or leisure services which are ordered for a specific date or period;
  • Food or drink from a delivery service; or
  • Goods at an on-line auction.

More about shopping on-line, by mail order or over the phone (includes reference to digital streaming as of June 2014)

More about buying away from trader’s premises

If you used your credit card to pay for a single item costing between £100 and £30,000, the credit card company may have equal liability, even if the company is not based in the UK.

 

You can also get advice by:

  • Telephoning the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
    (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Check out your rights when buying (PDFs):

See more information about your consumer rights

You can also get advice by:

  • Telephoning the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
    (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Safety

In addition to your rights under the Sale of Goods Act you have further rights regarding the safety of any goods you buy. If you suffer damage (which includes personal injury or death and damage to private property) from dangerous or unsafe goods, the manufacturer or the importer may be held liable for the damage, under the Consumer Protection Act.

Under the Act:

  • The goods must intended for private use or consumption;
  • You must make a claim within 3 years of the date of the damage or within 3 years from the date the damage could reasonably have been discovered;
  • Claims for damage to property must exceed £275.

Note: The manufacturer’s or importer’s liability ends 10 years after the product first appeared on the market.

You may also be able to claim compensation for negligence if you can show that a manufacturer or trader had not shown reasonable care and as a result you have suffered loss, damage or injury because the goods are defective. The time limit for claiming for negligence is 6 years, 3 years if you are claiming for personal injury.

There are a number of safety regulations including General Product Safety Regulations for all products (which apply to most new, secondhand or re-conditioned products) and specific safety regulations for particular products. If you think a product is unsafe, whether or not it has caused you any harm, you should report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. This helpline acts as a gateway to all Trading Standards Departments and can also give you advice.

See more information about your consumer rights

You can also get advice by:

  • Telephoning the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
    (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Services

Services can be anything from a small repair job to a major installation or services like dry cleaning. It includes the services of a professional such as a solicitor or accountant. Services may be supplied alone or together with goods, for example the buying and installation of a new fitted kitchen.

The Supply of Goods and Services Act says that services must be:

  • Carried out with reasonable care and skill; and
  • Finished in a reasonable time, unless a specific time has been agreed, unless when the delay is due to circumstances outside the supplier’s control; and
  • Provided at a reasonable cost, unless a definite price has been agreed.

Any goods or parts fitted as part of the services must be:

  • As described;
  • Of satisfactory quality; and
  • Fit for their purpose.

Finding a Good Service Provider

If you are looking for a tradesperson, check out who you can trust.

Unhappy with a Service you have received?

If you are dissatisfied with a service that you have had you may be able to claim compensation. You usually have to pay something towards the work that has been carried out. It is rare that the work is so bad that you can show that you have got no benefit from it.

You may also be able to claim compensation for negligence if you can show that the service provider had not shown reasonable care, skill and competence and as a result you have suffered loss, damage or injury because the goods are defective. The time limit for claiming for negligence is six years, 3 years if you are claiming for personal injury. 

For more information about your rights when buying a service and what to do if the work is unsatisfactory, see here.

You can also get advice by:

  • Telephoning the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
    (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Health

The National Health Service (NHS) provides a vast range of services, many of which are free.

General Practitioners (GPs)

General Practitioners are usually your first port of call for medical advice.  GP’s provide initial diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of health issues and will refer you a specialist if necessary.

Everyone is entitled to register with a GP.  To find your local GP contact your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk.

NHS Walk-in Centres

Walk-in centres, staffed by nurses, can treat minor injuries such as strains, sprains and cuts and minor illnesses (e.g. coughs, colds, and infections). As the name implies you do not need an appointment or to be referred to a walk-in centre.

To find your nearest walk-in clinic, see here.

Hospitals

Hospitals provide more specialist care. Hospital appointments or admissions usually follow a referral by your GP. In an emergency or if you have an accident you can go straight to hospital Accident & Emergency Department.

Note –  not all hospitals have and Accident and Emergency Department.

Find your nearest hospital here.

Dentists

Dental treatment may be provided privately or through the NHS. Most people pay for their dental treatment but you may be exempt from charges or entitled to help with the cost of dental treatment.

To find your local NHS dentist, see here.

Contraception, Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinics

There are a number of clinics that provide specialist sexual health and reproductive health services. At these clinics you can access services such as:

  • Family planning.
  • Termination.
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • Well woman advice and information.
  • Services for young people.

You can find your nearest sexual health clinic online from NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk.

Health Care for People Coming from Abroad

People coming from abroad, including British Nationals who are not ordinarily resident in the UK, may have to pay for their health care except in certain limited circumstances. The rules about health care for foreign nationals, other than treatment which is available to everyone (see below), are complex and accessing healthcare may affect your right to remain in the UK. Before seeking health care you should get advice.

Treatment which is available to anyone who needs it

Regardless of how long you have been, or intend to stay, in the UK you will be entitled to free treatment in the following circumstances:

  • Emergency treatment by a GP practice.
  • Outpatient emergency treatment.
  • Emergency treatment at a walk-in clinic.
  • Family planning services.
  • Treatment for certain communicable diseases.
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment.
  • In England and Scotland, any other compulsory treatment under a court order.

Note: If you are referred to an outpatient clinic or admitted to hospital from an accident or emergency department, including emergency surgery or admittance to a high-dependency unit you may be charged. Also emergency treatment following a road accident may not be free.

Paying For Health Care

While most health care is free you will have to pay for some things, including prescriptions, dental care, sight tests and glasses.

You may be able to get help with:

  • Prescription charges.
  • NHS dental charges, including check-ups.
  • Sight tests.
  • Vouchers towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses.
  • Travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment.
  • Travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment.
  • Wigs and fabric supports, for example, abdominal and spinal supports, and support tights.

Prescriptions

There is a fixed charge per item on your prescription.

You will be exempt from prescription charges if you:

  • Are getting, or included in a claim for, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit;
  • Are 60yrs or over;
  • Have a  valid medical exemption certificate, (ask your GP, hospital or pharmacist for Form FP92A);
  • Are under 16yrs;
  • Are over 16yrs and still in full-time education;
  • Are pregnant, or have had a baby in the last twelve months, (ask your GP, midwife or health visitor for form FW8);
  • Have got a community care order and you are expected to take medication for the treatment of your mental disorder.

If you do not fall within one of the exempt groups but are on a low income you may be able to get help with the cost of prescriptions. To apply, get Form HC1 which is available from:

Pre-payment Certificates

If you do not qualify for any help with prescription charges but need frequent prescriptions you can save money by buying a pre-payment certificate for 3 months (£29.10) or 12 months (£104). These are available from:

  • Your pharmacist;
  • By telephone: 0845 850 0030;
  • By e-mail: ppc1@ppa.nhs.uk;
  • Website: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

For more information about NHS charging arrangements:

  • See Leaflet HC11, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland, search for HCS1 here.
  • If you are resident in Wales, search for HC11W here.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help on NHS charging arrangements, you can request advice.

Dental Treatment

Charges are made for dental treatment. If you opt for dental treatment under the NHS as opposed to private treatment there are 3 standard charges depending on the treatment you need. For more information on dental charges:

  • See Leaflet HC11, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland, search for HCS1 here.
  • If you are resident in Wales, search for HC11W here.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help on NHS charging arrangements, you can request advice.

You will be entitled to free dental treatment, including check ups, if at the start of your treatment you or when the charge is made, you:

  • Are getting or included in a claim for on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit;
  • Are under 18yrs;
  • Are under 19yrs and still in full-time education;
  • Are pregnant, or have had a baby in the last twelve months;

If you do not fall within one of the exempt groups but are on a low income you may be able to get help with the cost of dental treatment. To apply, get Form HC1 which is available from:

For more information on dental charges, exemptions, help with dental costs and refunds see:

  • See Leaflet HC11, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland, search for HCS1 here.
  • If you are resident in Wales, search for HC11W here.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help on NHS charging arrangements, you can request advice.

Sight Tests and help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses

You are entitled to a free sight test and help towards the cost of prescribed glasses or contact lenses if you:

  • Are getting or included in a claim for on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit;
  • Are 60yrs or over;
  • Are under 16yrs;
  • Are under 19yrs and still in full-time education;
  • Need complex lenses;
  • Are registered blind or partially sighted;
  • have diabetes or glaucoma;
  • Are aged 40yrs  or over and are the parent, brother, sister or child of someone with glaucoma, or you have been advised that you are at risk of glaucoma;
  • Are a war pensioner, and need a sight test because of a disability for which you get a war pension;
  • Are a hospital patient, and need a sight test for the management of your eye condition.

If you do not fall within one of the exempt groups but are on a low income you may be able to get help with the cost of a sight test. To apply, get Form HC1 which is available from:

  • Job Centres;
  • NHS Hospitals;
  • Or call 0845 610 1112;
  • Or email nhsforms@spsl.uk.com

For details of current charges and the help available towards glasses and contact lenses see:

  • Leaflet HC12, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland search here for leaflet HCS2.
  • If you are resident in Wales click here and search for HC12W.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help, you can request advice.

Travel Costs for NHS Treatment

In certain circumstances you can get help with the essential costs of travelling to and from the palace you get treatment if you:

  • Are getting or included in a claim for on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit;
  • Get a war or service disablement pension and need to go to hospital for treatment for that disability.

If you need to be accompanied by someone you may also get help with their travel costs.

If you can’t afford to pay your travel costs in advance, you can ask for an advance payment alternatively you can claim a refund on your travel costs by completing form HC5 and handing it in to the place where you are receiving the treatment.

If you do not fall within one of the exempt groups but are on a low income you may be able to get help with travel costs.

For more information about help with travel costs see:

  • See Leaflet HC11, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland, search for HCS1 here.
  • If you are resident in Wales, search for HC11W here.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help, you can request advice.

Travel Costs if you are travelling abroad for treatment

If you need to travel abroad for treatment you may be able to get help with the costs of travel in certain circumstances.

Wigs and Fabric Supports

You may be able to get help with the costs of NHS wigs and fabric supports, (e.g., abdominal and spinal supports, and support tights) prescribed by a hospital if you:

  • Are getting or included in a claim for on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit;
  • Are under 16yrs.
  • Are under 19yrs and in full-time education.
  • Are a hospital in-patient when the wig or fabric support is supplied.
  • Get a war or service disablement pension and need a wig or fabric support because of your disability.

For more information about help with wigs and fabric supports costs:

  • See Leaflet HC11, if you are resident in England
  • If you are resident in Scotland, search for HCS1 here.
  • If you are resident in Wales, search for HC11W here.
  • Alternatively, see here.

If you still require help, you can request advice.

Complaints

You have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS treatment, including if you are refused treatment.

Time limits for making a complaint

You should make your complaint as soon as possible.

The time limit for complaints is usually:

  • 12 months from  the date the matter you want to complain about happened, or
  • 12 months from the date that you first became aware of it.

These time limits can be extended where it would be unreasonable to expect you to have complained in time, for example, because of grief or trauma.

For more information about making a complaint, see here.

Alternatively, you can request advice.

Tax & National Insurance

Most of us pay tax in one way or another and it can be a significant amount. The main taxes are:

Income tax

Income tax, as its name implies, is the tax you pay on your income. Income includes:

  • Money you earn from employment.
  • Profits you make if you’re self-employed.
  • Some state benefits.
  • Most pensions, including state pensions, company and personal pensions and retirement annuities.
  • Interest on savings and pensioner bonds.
  • Rental income (unless you’re a live-in landlord and get £4,250 or less).
  • Benefits you get from your job.
  • Income from a trust.
  • Dividends from company shares.

You don’t usually have to pay tax on all your income as you have a tax free personal allowance. As a general rule, you can calculate your tax free allowance if you add a 0 to the 3 numbers in your tax code.  Find out more about your ‘Personal Allowance’.

You may also qualify for tax reliefs.

The income you receive in excess of your personal allowance and any tax reliefs are taxed at different rates.

Most tax is deducted at source e.g. the tax you pay on your income from paid employment or some savings.  However for some income e.g. income from self-employment you have to complete an annual self-assessment tax return. Find out more about how to pay your tax.

Check out if you are paying the correct amount of tax.

You will be sent a statement of your income and how much Income Tax and National Insurance you have paid, usually in May each year. This is called a P60 and you should keep it safe.

If you have paid too much tax you may be entitled to a rebate.

For more guidance about income tax – request advice.

VAT

VAT is charged on many of the things we buy every day, whether these are goods or services. Most goods and services are charged at the standards rate of tax, 20%, some things e.g. child car safety seats and energy saving materials are charged at 5% whereas food and children’s clothes do not attract VAT. Find out more about VAT.

For more guidance about VAT – request advice.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is paid when a person who has died leaves an estate (property and possessions) which is worth more than the inheritance tax threshold of £325,000.  When calculating the value of the estate, gifts made by the deceased in the 7 years before they died may be included.

The rate of inheritance tax is 40% on everything above £325,000. The rate may be reduced to 36% if more than 10% of the estate is left to charity.

The deadline for paying inheritance tax is usually 6 months from the end of the month in which the person died.  After that interest may be charged on the debt.

Get more information on inheritance tax here.

To get advice about inheritance tax, you can request advice.

National Insurance

National Insurance Numbers

Everyone aged 16 or over needs a National Insurance Number. This is a unique number, (everyone’s number is different) which is used to confirm your identity. To prevent identity fraud, you should keep your National Insurance number safe. Don’t give it to anyone who doesn’t need it.

You will automatically be sent your National Insurance Number before your 16th birthday.  If you don’t receive it and you are aged under 20 years you should call the National Insurance Registration Helpline:

Telephone: 0300 200 3502
Textphone: 0300 200 3519
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm.

If you do not have a National Insurance Number, for example if you come from abroad and have the right to work in the UK, you can apply for your National Insurance Number. Call the Jobcentre Plus application line:

Telephone: 0845 600 0643
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

You will be sent an application form and may be called to an interview and asked to provide documents that prove your identity, e.g.:

  • Passport/identity card.
  • Residence permit.
  • Birth/adoption certificate.
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificate.
  • Driving licence.

If you can’t remember your National Insurance Number you will find it on your wage slip, P60 or tax return, and any letter sent to you by the Department of Work and Pensions.

If you can’t find it you can:

Telephone: 0300 200 3502
Textphone: 0300 200 3519
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm.

Your National Insurance number will be sent to you in the post you will not be given it over the phone.

To get advice about National Insurance Numbers, you can also request advice.

Paying National Insurance

There are 4 different classes of national insurance contributions.

Class 1 – Employed people under the State Pension age.

Class 2 – Self-employed people.

Class 3 Voluntary contributions.

Class 4 – Self-employed people whose profits exceed a certain amount.

Find out more about classes of National Insurance Contributions here.

You pay National Insurance Contributions on your earned income to build up your entitlement to certain state benefits, including the State Pension.

You pay National Insurance if you’re aged between 16 and State Pension age and you are

  • An employee earning above £149 a week.
  • Self-employed and making a profit over £5,725 a year (unless you get an exception).

The exact amount you pay depends on:

  • How much you earn.
  • Whether you’re employed or self-employed.

The rates of Class 1 National Insurance contributions for employed people are:

  • 12% on your weekly earnings between £149 and £797.
  • 2% on any weekly earnings over £797.

Your employer will take deduct your National Insurance together with any tax you have to pay from your wages before you get paid.

If you are self-employed the amount of National Insurance you will pay will depend on your profits.

Check the rate of your contributions at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

You may also want to pay, Class 3 voluntary contributions to make up for any gaps in your National Insurance Record, for example, to improve your contributions record to enable you to get a full Sate pension.

Note: If you are a parent or carer you will automatically get National Insurance Credits if you are receiving Child Benefit for a child under 12 or you are getting Carer’s Allowance.

To get more guidance about National Insurance, request advice.

Education

Pre-School Education

In England, every three-year-old and four-year-old is entitled to a free early education place, for 15 hours per week during normal term times. You do not have to take up a place.

Not all providers of early-years education are part of the scheme to provide free early education places. Contact your local education authority for a list of organisations participating in the scheme. Your Local Education Authority holds lists of places which provide early education.

Schooling

Compulsory School Age

Compulsory school age in England is from the beginning of the term following your child’s 5th birthday until the last Friday in June of the school year in which your child reaches 16yrs (this includes children who are 16yrs before the first day of the following September term).

The law says that all children of compulsory school age must be given a free school place by their Local Education Authority.

If you are a parent, a guardian or have parental responsibility for a child of compulsory school age you have a duty to ensure that your child receives education and you may ultimately be prosecuted if you fail in this duty.

Starting School

In England, local authorities must accept your child into primary school in the September following his/her fourth birthday but as a parent you can request that your child does not start school until s/he reaches compulsory school age, or that your child attends part-time until s/he reaches compulsory school age.

For more information about school age education, see here.

Post-16 Education or Training in England

The minimum age at which a young person can leave learning is changing. Young people will be required to continue in education or training until:

  • From Summer 2013, the end of the academic year in which they turn 17yrs, and
  • From Summer 2015, until their 18th birthday.

This education or training can be:

  • Full-time education, at school or college.
  • Work-based learning, e.g. an apprenticeship.
  • Part-time education or training if they’re employed, self-employed or volunteering for 20 hours or more a week.

The local authority is responsible for making sure that every young person has a suitable offer of a place in post-16 education or training.

You can find more information about post-16 education and training here.

Home Education

You can educate your child at home if you wish, and although you don’t have to tell the local education authority that you’re educating your child at home, it would be wise to do so. You do not have to follow the national curriculum or keep to school hours but you must be able to show that your child’s education takes account of your child’s age, ability and any special educational needs.

See more information about home education.

Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs

If your child:

  • Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of pupils of his/her age, or
  • Has a disability which means that s/he cannot make full use of the general educational facilities provided for pupils of his/her age

then s/he is entitled to receive full-time education that is appropriate to his/her needs between the ages of 2yrs and 19yrs. You also have the right to educate your child at home (see above).

More information about special educational needs.

Further and Higher Education

You may want to continue in education after 18yrs, you can find out more below:

Our advisers at NESCAB are on hand to help if you want more information or advice about education – request advice now.

Immigration

All organisations giving immigration advice must be regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). If you need immigration advice you should always make sure that any company or organisation offering immigration advice is regulated by the OISC. Find which immigration  advisers are regulated by the OSIC.

NESCAB is authorised to give Level 1, i.e. general immigration advice. This means that we can offer advice on the following matters:

Applications for entry clearance, Leave to Enter or Leave to Remain

We offer advice on basic applications that are within the Immigration Rules in the following categories:

  • Visitors.
  • Students.
  • Spouses/unmarried partners.
  • Other family members.
  • Immigration employment documents.
  • All applications under PBS, visitors, diplomats, their family members and domestic staff and non-asylum Case Resolution / Legacy Cases.
  • Other applications such as au pair, postgraduate medical/dental training and private medical treatment.

Nationality and citizenship under UK law

We offer advice on basic applications for:

  • Naturalisation as a British citizen.
  • Registration as a British citizen.

EU and EEA immigration law

We offer advice on basic applications for the following:

  • Residence permit for an EU/EEA national.
  • Family permit for a non-EU/EEA family member.
  • Entry clearance for non-EU/EEA family member.
  • Workers Registration Scheme.
  • A2 Accession Scheme.

We cannot undertake casework in asylum or immigration matters, nor can we undertake specialist immigration advice. If your immigration matter requires casework or specialist advice we will refer you to an organisation that can help you.

Immigration advice is very complex and your rights are dependent on your immigration status. Your immigration status is determined by the stamp you have in your passport. If you want us to give you immigration advice, or if you come from abroad and want benefit advice, or certain types of housing and employment advice, we will ask you to bring your passport with you – so that any advice we give you does not compromise your immigration status or any right you have to remain in the UK.

Recourse to Public Funds

Most people who are subject to immigration rules are required to be able to show that they can support themselves or be supported independently from the UK state.

If the stamp in your passport states ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ you are not permitted:

  • To claim any benefits;
  • To be allocated housing by a local authority; or
  • To get local authority homelessness assistance.

If you find yourself in difficulties, get advice immediately as any recourse to public funds could mean that action will be taken against you and it could be very difficult to get leave to enter or remain in the UK in the future.

Habitual Residence Test

Most people entering or returning to the UK including British Nationals who have lived abroad, who want apply for benefits, must satisfy the Habitual Residence Test. This means that you must be able to prove that:

  • You have a right to reside in the UK, i.e. you have a legal right to live here; and
  • You intend to settle in the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland and make it your home for the time being.

See more information about the Habitual Residence Test.

Working in the UK

If you are a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) national other than someone from Croatia, you have the right to work in the UK. More information on working in the UK (PDF).

If you are Croatian you normally have to be registered under the Workers’ Authorisation Scheme before you can work in the UK. Before you start work you should get yourself a purple registration certificate. Some Croatians do not need to be registered under the Workers’ Registration scheme. To find out if you are exempt, request advice.

If you come from outside the European Union or EEA, you may be prohibited from working in the UK or restricted in the work that you can do. If you are unsure whether you are allowed to work or not, request advice.

Utilities

The utilities covered in this section are gas, electricity, oil and water.

Gas and Electricity

There is a lot involved when thinking about gas and electricity supplies such as what to do when you move into a new home, which supplier to use, what is the best tariff for you, how do you compare energy deals, understanding your bills when they arrive, paying for your fuel and what to do if you get behind with your energy bills.

Moving House

If you are a tenant and the supply is not connected, it is your landlord’s responsibility to pay for the property to be connected.

Generally, whether you are buying or renting a property, the supplies are connected. You need to find out who the current suppliers are and let them know in advance (if possible) the date that you will be moving in.

To find out who supplies your gas call the Meter Point Administration Service on 0870 608 1524 (England, Scotland and Wales), or for Northern Ireland see www.consumercouncil.org.uk

The Meter Point Administration Service can also give you your Meter Point Reference Number which is useful when setting up your new account.

Find out who supplies your electricity and the correct contact telephone number for your area here, or the National Grid website www.nationalgrid.com.

Find out who suppliers your gas and the correct contact telephone number for your area here.

If the property that you are moving to has a pre-payment meter for gas or electricity, you will need to get your own prepayment card or key from the supplier.

On the day that you move, you should read the meters at the property you are leaving and at your new property.

Find out how to read your gas meter here.

Find out how to read your electricity meter here.

Getting the Best Energy Deal

If you are a tenant you can change your energy supplier if you pay directly for your energy. However if you pay your landlord for your energy you cannot change the supplier, as the contract is between the landlord and the energy company.

The government has simplified the energy market. Each energy company is only allowed to offer a maximum of four tariffs for gas and four for electricity, making it easier for you to compare suppliers and find cheaper deals. You may also be offered discounts for example for:

  • Dual fuel (buying both gas and electricity from the same supplier).
  • Managing your account on line.
  • Paying by direct debit.

From to time to time, everyone should check that they are getting the best energy deal.

You can compare energy prices on comparison websites. To get the most accurate, up-to-date independent information it is best to use comparison websites that are accredited by the Ofgem Confidence Code. You can find an Ofgem accredited price comparison site at www.ofgem.org.uk

You could also consider signing up to the Cheap Energy Club, a free service which checks the cheapest energy deals for you. It does a monthly comparison and tells you when it’s worth switching suppliers.

Here is more information about choosing and switching suppliers and energy tariffs.

Understanding your Energy Bill

There are usually two different charges on your energy bill:

  • The standing charge – which covers the cost of getting the supply to your meter; and
  • The unit cost – which is the cost of the energy you use.

You will pay a standing charge whether or not you use any gas or electricity, although some companies don’t make a standing charge but charge more per unit of energy instead.

Here is more information about understanding your energy bills.

The 3 mains ways in which you can pay your energy bills are:

  • A quarterly bill – you will be sent a bill every 3 months which will either be based on an estimated or an actual reading;
  • Direct debit – the energy company will estimate your annual consumption, divide it into 12 equal installments and debit your bank account each month, payment by direct debit may entitle you to a discount;
  • Pre-payment meter – you pay for your energy in advance through a token, smart card or key that you charge up at a local shop. This is often the most expensive way of paying for energy.

If you are renting your property, your tenancy agreement may say that you have to pay your landlord for your energy. There is a maximum amount that the law says your landlord can re-charge you for energy.

More information about paying your energy bills.

For tips on how to save on your energy bills, see here.

And check out whether you qualify for a warm homes discount.

Problems Paying Your Energy Bills

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills you need to take action quickly as your energy company may insist on installing a pre-payment meter or they could disconnect you. There may be help available.

If you have energy and/or other debts, our team of debt specialists here at NESCAB are on hand to help – request advice.

Oil

In some areas, especially rural areas, there are no gas supplies and householders have to rely on oil for their heating and hot water. Oil is more expensive than gas and you often have to buy large quantities of oil at a time. Oil prices can be more expensive in the Winter when demand is high, so you may save money if you can buy your oil during the Summer.

When ordering oil you should ask for written confirmation of your order, including the quantity or oil, the price, the time scale for delivery and any other conditions.

For information about problems with heating oil, see problems with your heating oil delivery.

Oil Clubs

Domestic heating oil companies often have large minimum deliveries and require payment up front. They may also offer a discount for bulk purchases. Joining an oil club, where groups of people get together to their oil can save you money.

If you live in England or Wales you can find out if there is an oil club in your area by visiting the Citizens Advice website and entering your postcode.

If you’re already a member of an oil club, you can register it on this map.

For help and advice for setting up an oil club, see Setting up and running an oil club.

If you are struggling to pay for your oil, try to negotiate with your supplier. Our team of specialist debt advisers here at NESCAB are on hand to help so request advice.

Note: it is illegal for your oil supplier to threaten to take oil from your tank. If your supplier tries to take the oil out of your tank you should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06 immediately as well as giving you advice they will report the supplier to Trading Standards.

Water

There are two elements to ‘water supply’:

  • The fresh water supply; and
  • Sewage, (the removal of waste).

Unlike other utilities, who supplies your water and sewage services is determined by where you live. Usually one water company provides both services but in some areas of the country, including North East Suffolk, there are two companies involved, one supplying the water and the other dealing with the sewage.

To find out which water company supplies your area, go to the Consumer Council for Water’s website at www.ccwater.org.uk.

Your water supply may be metered or it may be billed at an amount that is fixed annually. You can chose whether to have a water meter installed but once there is a water meter in a property it cannot be removed. Note: if you are a tenant and your tenancy lasts for 6 months you have the right to ask for a water meter.

See more information on water meters.

See more information about non-metered water.

If you are thinking about changing to a water meter check out the water meter calculator.

When you move house you should let the water company or companies know at last 5 working days in advance when you are moving so they can arrange to take a final reading at your old property and an initial reading at the new property.

Paying for Water and Sewage

Water companies expect to be paid in advance (usually 6 monthly) if you don’t have a meter. However whether you have metered water or not you can spread your payments by paying by monthly installments by direct debit.

More information about paying your water bills.

Water companies cannot, by law, disconnect or restrict your water supply if you are a domestic customer and owe them money. They can, however, get a County Court judgement against you and instruct bailiffs to recover what you owe – see our Debt & Money advice section.

If you are struggling to pay your water bills you may be able to get help or our team of specialist Debt Advisers here at NESCAB are on hand to help with any debts – request advice here.


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